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Equine - Parasites - Treating External & Internal Horse Parasites

Can you tell us a little bit about internal parasites and how we can manage them in our horses?

Sure. Internal parasites are worms that grow in the gastrointestinal tract of the horse. Basic management is through deworming on regular basis, individualized to your particular horse, as well as environmental control to minimize the exposure level of your horse to these parasites.

Dr. Christine Cocquyt
Tennessee Equine Hospital

What are some external parasites and how can we prevent them on our horses?

External parasites can range from... anywhere from pesky flies to ticks, lice, and mites. They typically cause skin irritation, but there can be some transmission of systemic diseases through these parasites as well. We typically lean on topical medications for most of these parasites.

How will a doctor diagnose parasites in our horses?

We usually identify external parasites through a visual examination or a microscopic examination. For internal parasite identification, we use what's called the fecal egg count. And the fecal egg count takes a small amount of manure, not a whole bag of feces. We typically like a fresh sample within the past 24 hours refrigerated, if possible. And we can either collect that on the farm or you can bring a sample to the office and drop it off at our front desk.

And then we at Tennessee Equine Hospital have what's called the parasite machine, and this machine analyzes the fecal sample for mainly two categories of intestinal parasites, the strongyles and the parascaris. The parasite machine identifies these and it gives us a nice printout of a visual identification of the actual parasite eggs as well as a number of counts. And we use that number counts to determine what level of shedding your horse has and what level of infestation your horse might have individually as well. And based on that, we can send you recommendations for deworming. So once you drop your sample off or we run your sample, you'll receive an email that has that information in it.

Why is early detection and diagnosis of these parasites so important, and what are some products available that can help manage these in our horses?

For external parasites, I mentioned that sometimes there's the transmission of systemic diseases from ticks, which we worry about the most. So identifying those early on and preventing skin irritation from those parasites is vital. When it comes to internal parasites, they can cause a range of problems as well, dependent on the number of parasites that are in your horse's body. And that can range from colic to mild anemia. Identifying those issues and eliminating that as a source of problems is essential. On a herd health level, it's important for us to identify which horses are shedding the most eggs into the environment.

Deworming resistance in parasites is a growing problem in horses. So we really want to target deworm horses throughout the year. So the old systems used to have a rotating method of deworming every two to three months for every horse out there. And that's not always appropriate because that increases resistance to the dewormers that we do have available. It surprises a lot of people, but most horses only need to be dewormed twice a year. By monitoring your horses' fecal egg counts we can identify which horses might need to be dewormed more frequently than that. And both contribute to your horse's' individual health, decrease that fecal egg shedding into the environment, and control that dewormer resistance as well. We have a variety of pace dewormers available at Tennessee Equine and some topical medications for external parasites.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 591-1232, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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